Why Must Blockbusters Be Dumb?
I just got home from seeing The Lego Movie. On the surface that might seem like a dumbed down piece of product designed to sell more of the titular building blocks. But surprisingly it’s full of heart, soul and humor. Definitely the blockbuster to beat for 2014.
Unfortunately, well-done blockbusters of that type seem an endangered species in Hollywood. For every Avengers, there are ten Transformers. For every one that might succeed as a one-off you then have to deal with several lesser sequels (Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Matrix).
But there’s no law that says blockbusters must be dumb or badly written or weakly acted or poorly directed. Indeed the likes of Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Aliens, Face/off, Die Hard, Shrek, Toy Story, Lord Of The Rings, The Lego Movie and so on all prove that there can be popcorn movies with intelligence. But the majority of the ones that are released on a regular basis are the cinematic equivalent of McDonald’s.
A common myth has persisted since the mid 80s or there about that Jaws and Star Wars were the movies that created the blockbuster and reduced the likelihood of Hollywood making intelligent, idiosyncratic or personal films. I’ve always seen that as the myth that it is since good blockbusters never hurt anybody. Plus, in the 80s, there was room for intelligent blockbusters like Raiders, ET, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Aliens and others alongside well-done films outside of the popcorn range. Consider that the 80s gave us a Scorsese masterwork (Raging Bull), final masterpieces by brilliant foreign directors (Kurosawa’s Ran, Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander), a sci-fi noir (Blade Runner), a searing Vietnam war drama (Platoon), a frankly adult oriented very erotic dark thriller (Blue Velvet), an effective combination of personal storytelling and social comment (Do The Right Thing), one of the best teen movies ever (Fast Times At Ridgemont High), John Hughes masterworks (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), The Coen Brothers first two films (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona) and debut features also from the likes of Michael Mann, Steven Soderbergh, Jim Jarmusch and so on.